(Cross post from Adventagain.blogspot.com)
Since last week I have been grappling with this verse. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ I have gone through the week thinking about heart, about soul, and about the old song Heart and Soul for goodness sake!(I daresay some reading this are too young to even recognize the very popular duet, Heart and Soul, that many of us banged out on our mom's pianos!).
How does one define heart especially when the verse asks us to delineate between heart and soul? Several months ago, I had the opportunity to teach a group of visiting scholars and Ph.D. students this very verse. These scholars were all from China and were quick to help me differentiate the meanings of these two small words. Please be reminded that these scholars had NO prior spiritual training or Biblical understanding and that these descriptions were their very words...
•site of specific feelings & intuition •spiritual
•physical only •immaterial part of a person
•eventual death •eternal part
•humans only animal with soul
•part that has relationship with God
•has a will
The fact that a people group with limited to no knowledge of the Biblical Jesus could come up with this list astounds me but also confirms to me the presence of a very real, living God. A God seeking us, searching for us and even placing within each of us this innate desire for a God of our understanding. There is indeed a God-shaped hole in each of us...a longing to be filled only by our Creator. Every human living has a heart and has a soul. Our question for today is how do we love God with all our soul?
Joseph faced the very same question.
"This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son." Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph was a real man. We have him stored in our brains as some surreal character that we read about as children in Sunday School. He was a plain man. He worked hard for a living, worried about the future, worried about money and loved a girl. He wanted to get married and have a family. We are also told that Joseph was faithful to the law. In these verses, we can also see that he was a man with a beautiful soul as he prepared to spare Mary disgrace and divorce her quietly. Can we also agree that only faithful men and men of soul might receive angels in technicolor dreams? Can't we agree that as surely as God chose Mary the 'highly favored', that He also saw Joseph as highly favored?
When I look back at our definitions I realize the highly prized heart of a person is the one of great emotion whether that be joy, exuberance, sadness, pain or joy. I've always prided myself on having a big heart. But today I've newly realized that my heart never really tells me the whole Truth. It is fickle and one day it will die. Also, I believe that Joseph MUST have experienced a heart-ache as happenings unfolded. His Mary was telling him of an encounter that surely his heart wanted to believe but yet....how difficult was this news. So...it was Joseph's great soul of belief that allowed him to keep striving to be the man of God to which he was called. For his emotional heart was surely damaged and in great pain; therefore, it wasn't Joseph's emotional heart that kept him on course but it was his God-seeking soul.
In this Advent season, loving with with your whole heart may be difficult. For even in this season of joy, celebration, gifts, food, children and love there is still pain in our lives...pain from disrupted relationships, the stress of Christmas giving and expectation, and the enormous pain of a broken world. But in the depths of us this week, Advent is truly calling for us to Love with our whole souls - our essence, our forever, eternal selves. Our whole souls are those that rise to the top during difficult dreams, angel visits, unexpected Savior visits and life's hurts and disappointments.
So today, this day, I strive to LOVE with a BIG SOUL - the eternal, forever part of God in me. For that is the LOVE of our Saviour...forever and unchanging.